W.I.P. Wednesday : Finishing Up Scarves…

A short post to show you what projects I’m trying to finish up…

a bit girly, non?

This one came together really quickly, but I had just a bit more to add to make it long enough.  I have this thing with short scarves, I don’t know what it is, but they drive me crazy.  If it’s not long enough for me to wrap it around my neck at least once with one end over each shoulder, it’s just too short.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this scarf since I started it back in October.  I love the super-soft baby weight acrylic yarn, it’s like a little puffy cloud of sweetness.  I bought a big bag of 6 skeins when it was on clearance last year, and I now wish I’d have bought more it’s so lovely.

Can you see the mistake?

Anyway, the yarn is fantastic, but it’s so thin, and using the 4mm needles does take a long time.  The other frustration was when the needles were pulled out – much harder to slip them back in than when using 8s or 10s!  I’ve put it away twice to do other things, but need to get it done as it was supposed to be a holiday gift for one of my nieces, but is obviously still not ready.  I hope to finish it up by this weekend.

Do you have trouble finishing up your started and almost done projects?  It’s so funny, but the closer I am to completing the craft, the slower going it seems to be.  Must be because the challenge is over…



Meal Plan Mondays : Tester Yummies

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend, because even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, it was still the weekend, right?  We had a lovely time, and we even got snow on Christmas Eve morning!  Guppy woke to a few centimetres of snow, just like in holiday stories, and she was elated.  The snow of course didn’t last, but it couldn’t have come on a better day.

The recipe testing continues for The Urban Vegan’s upcoming cookbook, and I must say that everything I’ve tested so far has received 4 stars.

chickpeas with tomatoes, eggplant and kale

tuscan bean dip

classic chocolate chippers

polenta-kale cutlets  with pan-seared tofu with basil balsamic glaze

Here’s this weeks vittles, the foods with a* are tester recipes.

Monday : Minimal Pastina Soup with Spinach* (lunch), Insanely Thick and Comforting Squash Soup* (dinner), served with baking powder biscuits.

Tuesday : Pumpkin-Maple Muffins* (breakfast), Spicy Lentils* served with mixed rice (dinner).

Wednesday : Tajine salé de seitan à la courge (savory seitan and squash tajine). I’ll be posting this recipe later in the week, too!

Thursday : Quiche – I think spinach, but I’m not sure.  We’ve been craving quiche, so I’m all about keeping the troops happy.

Friday : Pizza night, I hope.  If I get my wish, we’ll be hanging out here for New Year’s Eve…time will tell!

Are you making anything special this week?  Lighter meals seem to be de rigeur with all this celebrating, don’t you think?

Happy Christmas!

I’m wishing you all a sincerely joyful holiday, filled with love, laughter and lightness.  It’s ok if it’s not perfect, just be thankful that “it” is.  A special thought to you out there who are not with your loved ones this year.  I’ve missed family celebrations before, but this is my 8th  consecutive Christmas without my U.S. family, and I sure miss them right now.  Let’s sing together…”I’ll be home for Christmas…”

Some holiday cheer?

Sam says, “My humiliation is complete.  Please, look away. “

“I won’t cry, but I am going to pout until you remove that ridiculous picture, even if Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Merry Christmas to all!

Mashed Potato Christmas Trees

Personally, I love playing with my food, don’t you?

Take mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, chickpeas and mushroom gravy and have some fun!

Mama Fish’s Tree

Papa Fish’s Tree

Guppy’s Tree

The pictures with the mushroom gravy were just too reminiscent of mud slides and natural catastrophes devastating forests, so I’m censuring those.

This is one of our favourite ways to eat mashed potatoes around the holiday season.  To be honest, the humble spud doesn’t make it to our dinner table too often, finding itself relegated to “special requests” by Guppy.  Other choice veggies/decorations are of course cherry tomatoes, peas, olives, corn, diced red or green pepper, red onion, etc.  Steamed broccoli makes lovely surrounding shrubbery, and there have been steamed cauliflower clouds in the skies as well.  Hot sauce (for the big kids) or ketchup could be used for garlands, too. I set out the “ornaments” in little bowls and everyone decorates their own.

Very fun stuff, kids.  Tasty, too.

W.I.P. Wednesday : Basic Unlined Felt Stocking

The big count-down is on, kids, and if you’re like me, you’ve still got gifts to make and cookies to bake.  I was working on this relatively easy, unlined felt stocking today and thought I’d share this idea with you.  Depending on how fast you embroider and sew, this can be a very quick project.

These were for Guppy’s teachers this year.  I didn’t think to take a picture until we were leaving for school, hence the horrible lighting in the pre-dawn hours of 8:30am!  You can hardly make them out, but there are snow flakes above the trees…

You’ll need :

  • Vegan felt.  I used the vegan felt made from recycled plastic bottles I’ve blogged about before.
  • Embroidery Floss & Needle
  • Pencil or something to trace your pattern on.
  • Christmas stocking to use as a model (if you don’t have a stocking at home, just free-hand it or google it, there are lots of them out there).
  • Scissors, thread and optional sewing machine (you can hand sew this quickly).

1) Start by tracing your stocking shape onto your felt.  The quickest way to do it is to line up your two pieces of felt back to back, or fold a larger piece in two, then pin together.  That way you’ll only be cutting once.

2) Once you’ve cut out your felt, you’ll want to draw a little something on it to embroider.  If you’re in a hurry (it is 3 days to Christmas) try to make your design rather simple.  I just free-hand using a fat pencil.  If this scares you (it did me the first time) practice a few times on a piece of paper first.

I just free-handed this little elf girl, see the minimalist lines, etc. She’s not done, yet – I still need to give her a smile!  Snowmen, Christmas trees, etc. work well here as they require few details yet still look lovely.

3) Embroider!  Some people prefer sewing first, then doing the embroidery, but I find that because there isn’t much room to move inside the stocking it’s easier to embroider first, then sew. Look at the “How To” section at the top of the page for tutorials on basic embroidery, or again, google it.  There are many helpful videos on YouTube, too.  I just used a basic split-stitch for most of this little elf, but do what is easiest for you.

4) If the idea of embroidery scares you, just add a few appliqués.  Follow the technique for the Basic Holiday Ornaments to get fun shapes, then handsew them onto your stocking – just be sure to allow for a seam allowance, or your adorable shapes will be swallowed by the seams! Aaak!

5) Fold over the opening of your two halves to finish them off and give them a nice, finished seam.  The best is to fold over once, then fold over again so the raw edge is tucked up nicely.  The amount is up to you, just be sure it’s not too bulky and that it’s the same on both halves.  Sew them up with your machine (faster) or by hand (not terribly slow, if you’re only making one stocking).

6) Now it’s time to sew the two halves of your stocking together.  Pin them right sides together, like so :

Now just sew along the edge, giving yourself about a 1/4 inch seam allowance, and turn inside out! You might also want to add a little bit of ribbon to the top for hanging, or embellish with ribbons, etc.

I don’t actually have a finished picture of this one as I should be sewing it rather than writing a blog post about it, but to see a finished one, just again refer to the first photo in this post!  Hopefully this one will be sewn up and stuffed with goodies before next year…

Do you have any ideas for quick, last-minute gift ideas?  Just remember, it’s ok.  No matter what you’ve made or who you’ve made it for, it really is the thought that counts, no matter how trite that sounds.

W.I.P. Wednesday will be back next year!  It’s going to be an exciting year, and there will much going on.  I can’t wait!

Meal Plan Monday : Half a plan…

I have more holiday spirit than you can shake a candy cane at, but one of the tiny frustrations about the season is not always being in control of what we’re eating.  The Fish Family will be spending a few days with family at the end of the week, and that means not planning the meals, at least not in their entirety.  I will be contributing to the meals, though, and hopefully will be able to get some pictures if it’s not to dark!

In other news, I’m excited to tell you I’ll be doing some recipe testing for Urban Vegan who has a new cookbook in the works.  The next few days will feature some of her recipes, and they sound delicious.

Here’s what I’ve got planned for the next few days :

Monday : Lemon Poppyseed Muffins (special holiday breakfast), Tuscan Bean Dip with veggies and green salad (lunch), Chickpeas with tomato, eggplant & spinach (dinner).  All three of these are tester recipes for Urban Vegan.

Tuesday : Polenta-Spinach Cutlets with Basil Aioli served with green beans (lunch), Old Bay Cakes served with mashed potatoes and green salad (also test recipes).

Wednesday : I’m not sure if we’ll be here or not yet, so today will probably be about eating left-overs to empty the fridge!

My muffins lean to the left, just like me!

Because I’m posting this after breakfast, I can share a photo of these delicious muffins from Urban Vegan forthcoming book.  The sun doesn’t rise until after 8:30am now, so the light isn’t wonderful, but the muffins were. I knew I needed to snap a picture of one before they disappeared!  Beautiful crumb, bright, lemony taste, perfect for a leisurely holiday breakfast.

Not sure what to make for dinner?  Take a peek at the sample menus on the Meal Plan Mondays page for some inspiration.

Better Salt-Dough Decorations : W.I.P. Wednesday

Making salt-dough decorations is a fun and inexpensive way to get festive  with family or friends.  It’s become a bit of a tradition, and every year we look forward to it.

You might be wondering how we could be making these decorations for a third year in a row, but keep in mind : primo – We had almost no decorations when we first started; secondo – They don’t only hang on the tree! We’ve got decorations hanging around the windows, picture frames, even random nails that were left in the walls by our home’s former occupant.

We don’t make a huge amount each time, and there is always some “spoilage”, ornaments that break from years past.

All this blathering on, but not telling you why I’m blogging about them, again.  Simply put, I’ve come up with a better formula that I find makes for more sturdy, beautiful ornaments.  Additionally, I’ve got an improved drying technique that I think has allowed for thicker decorations, allowing for more fragile design reinforcement.

Just like last week’s ornaments, for these you’ll need minimal supplies :

  • Cookie cutters!  If you’re thinking “I don’t have any cookie cutters, Shellyfish!”, just hold your horses.  Bowls, juice glasses, etc. make wonderful circles, and I’ll bet your kids or nephews or sibs have some fun shape-making gear they use with their Play-Doesque toys.  Look around, you’d be surprised what you’ll find with an open imagination. Libby, dinosaurs are wonderful here, too, obviously!
  • Flour! This is not the time for your organic, whole wheat variety.  Save that for your cookies.  Use the cheap-o white bleached stuff, or get creative with buckwheat (pretty colour) or corneal (fun texture) and regualr flour combos.
  • Salt!  This year I got crazy and used large sea salt, mostly because I wanted to change-up the texture.  I liked the results, but regular fine salt will give you a more classic, less rustic, look.
  • Glycerine or heavy, neutral oil.  If you have some glycerine, often used in home cosmetics, it’s the best choice, however, don’t get frowny-faced if you don’t.  Heavy oils like apricot would work well, but regular vegetable will work in a pinch.


See the lovely salt? You could add food coloring to the dough, and it would look lovely with the large bits of sea salt mixed in, I think.

This project is best spread out over several days.  Your first day is making the dough and cutting out your shapes, the next few days will be for drying out the ornaments (depending on which technique you use, more on this below), then painting and drying, and finally an optional painting session for adding detail or a second coat of paint.  This is important to keep in mind if you’ll be working with children.  Depending on their ages (or temperaments) you could do the cutting and drying first, then allow them to paint, or break the project up into multiple days, which is what I did with Guppy.

Better Salt-Dough Decorations

1 part salt (I used a glass to measure)

1 part flour

3/4 parts warm water

2 to 4 tablespoons glycerine or vegetable oil

Food colouring (optional)

Mix the salt and flour in a bowl, then add the water, a little at a time until you get a smooth dough, not too sticky (add more flour if need be) and not too stiff (add more water).  Add the glycerine and optional food colouring, and knead until it’s well blended and sleek and pretty.  Now set aside, loosely covered, for about an hour.

Now roll out your dough as if it were cookie dough (but don’t eat it, blek!) on a piece of parchment paper, or just form into objects if you’d like.  Once you’ve rolled out your dough and cut out your shapes you’ll need to let them dry. It’s important to let them dry out really well before painting, because if they continue to dry once you’ve applied paint it could crack and not look as you’d hoped.  Just keep in mind that the thicker your dough, the longer it will need to dry.

Please, before you begin drying your ornaments, be sure to remember to poke a small hole using a toothpick or knitting needle or whatever so that you can hang them up.  Once they’re dry, it’s too late.

Drying Method 1) Place your decorations on a radiator or furnace register and leave them there for a day or two (or in my case, leave them for about 4 days).  I cut out the shapes while Guppy was sleeping and when she woke the next morning she declared “Mumma, you’ve decorated the radiators!”.  See, you’re already decorating and they’ve not been painted yet!

Drying Method 2) Bake your decorations on parchment paper-lined baking sheets at about 80°c/175°f for a few hours.  You don’t want your oven hot, because it will cause the decorations to crack or bubble up – not good, unless that’s what you’re going for.

Drying Method 3) This is the method I would recommend as it seems to work the best for us.  Simply combine methods 1 and 2!  I suggest starting by drying the decorations on the radiator or similar surface for at least 24 hours, then baking them.

Decorating is fun and also can be as sophisticated or basic as you choose.  We start with some paint – you can use anything, really, markers work well, too.  Once the first coat of paint has dried you can add details, or go the way of the glitter.  Painting on glitter is easy : My method is using common white household glue and mixing it with glitter and applying it with a paintbrush.  When the glue dries it leaves behind a lovely shine and glitzy glitter. Gold or sliver spray paint would also be fun.  I have some and hope to play with it a little if I have time…

Just remember to have fun, no matter which technique you use!

* A special danke to Mihl & P for sending us some really special cookie cutters.  They made this year’s decoration creation session extra special!

Meal Plan Monday : The wings that weren’t, and the cookies that were.

I made these beautiful cookies last week :

In the name of science and not wanting to make a flop of the cookies I’m planning on making for gift-giving, of course. These lovelies are the pignoli cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  I’ve had Italian pignoli cookies before, but it’s been ages, and I wanted to give them a try.  I’m a big fan of the pine nut – it’s a fatty little bugger, but jam-packed with iron.  I usually add a tablespoon to top pizzas or salads, so Guppy was a bit leery seeing it in a sucré posture, but was won over instantly.  Monsieur-half-French-half-Italian-Fish, however, was not so inclined.  So much for his Italian roots.

As you can guess from my title, the seitan wings didn’t happen last week, and I was rather put out about it.  The beauty of the meal plan is in its non-contractual nature: I’m not going to get in trouble if I don’t stick to it. They’ve been re-slated for this week, however, because I’m not giving up!  Next week I’ll be very pleased to bring you a review of where many of these tasty recipes came from.

Monday : Caramelized Tofu, Brown rice with pineapple and green onions

Tuesday : 2 potato Shepherd’s Pie, green salad

Wednesday : Sushi Rice Balls, Japanese Pancakes and Teriyaki Mushrooms

Thursday :Seitan Buffalo Wings with Super Slaw (hoping!)

Friday : Pizza night!

If you haven’t already, please stop by my friend Ricki’s blog and leave a comment on this post.  She’ll be giving a donation to Second Harvest for every comment left.  What a great way to bring a little food and cheer to those in need this holiday season (oh, and you could also win some Simply Bar yummies, but that’s just a perk).